Navigate Home


Peter A. Nelson, PhD.


Associate Professor Civil and Environmental Engineering

Contact Info

Phone: (970) 491-5247   Office: Engineering Research Center A205

Email:   Lab:


Areas of Interest

 GeomorphologyRiver MorphodynamicsSediment TransportStream RestorationUrban Hydrology Wildfires


Dr. Nelson is currently an associate professor at CSU. He joined the faculty in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the fall of 2012. Originally from Spokane, Washington, Dr. Nelson received his B.S.E. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Princeton University in 2003. After spending a year at Princeton as a research assistant, in 2004 he began graduate studies in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science at the University of California at Berkeley. Upon receiving his Ph.D. in 2010, Dr. Nelson moved to Genoa, Italy for an 18-month postdoctoral research fellowship sponsored by the National Science Foundation. During his time at CSU, Dr. Nelson has developed a vigorous research program in which he and his students use computational modeling, physical experiments, analytical theory, and field observations to address fundamental questions about geomorphology, sediment transport, hydrology, hydraulics, and morphodynamics. For the past 15 years, Dr. Nelson’s research has focused on improving our understanding of and ability to predict sediment transport and channel evolution in gravel-bed rivers. His work has provided mechanistic explanations of why and how the beds of gravel-bed rivers become sorted into patches of distinct grain size, how the addition of fine sediment to an immobile coarse bed can remobilize the armor layer, and how sediment supply and stratigraphy can affect the dynamics of alternate bars in gravel-bed rivers. His research has also investigated post-wildfire hydrology and sedimentation, hydrology and channel design in urbanizing watersheds, fish passage at whitewater park structures, bedrock river morphodynamics, and the effects of dams on river morphology and habitat. Dr. Nelson has authored 35 peer-reviewed scientific articles, book chapters, and reports and over 70 abstracts and presentations at scientific meetings. In 2015, Dr. Nelson received the National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award. Dr. Nelson serves as the Colorado Water Institute’s representative on the Advisory Committee on Water Information (ACWI) Subcommittee on Sedimentation (SOS), which is responsible for promoting governmental collaboration on sediment issues, advances in information gathering, storing, and sharing, and for decision making about natural resources management and environmental protection.